LONDON, June 3 (Reuters) - Euro zone business activity surged in May as the easing of some coronavirus related restrictions injected life into the bloc’s dominant services industry, a survey showed, echoing data on Tuesday which showed factories had their best month on record.
An acceleration of vaccine programmes across the region and a fall in reported daily cases has allowed governments to remove some measures imposed to try and stop the spread of the virus.
That meant IHS Markit’s final composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), seen as a good gauge of economic health, jumped to 57.1 last month from April’s 53.8, its highest level since February 2018.
May’s final reading was ahead of a preliminary 56.9 indication and comfortably above the 50 mark separating growth from contraction.
An index covering the service industry soared to a near three-year high of 55.2 from 50.5, just beating the 55.1 flash estimate.
“The euro zone’s vast service sector sprang back into life in May, commencing a solid recovery that looks likely to be sustained throughout the summer,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.
“Businesses reported the strongest surge in demand since the start of 2018 as COVID restrictions were eased and vaccine progress boosted confidence.”
While the services new business index was the highest since early 2018 the overall composite new orders reading bounced to a near record 58.4 from 53.4 - its highest since June 2006 - as pent-up demand was released.
Manufacturing activity expanded at a record pace in May, according to a sister survey on Tuesday which suggested growth would have been even faster without supply bottlenecks that have led to an unprecedented rise in input costs.
The euro area was expected to emerge from a double-dip recession this quarter and expand 1.5%, a Reuters poll found earlier on Thursday.
Following a slow start, vaccination drives across the region have picked up pace and with restrictions being eased optimism about the year ahead increased. The services business expectations index rose to 71.2 from 68.4, its highest since January 2004.
“After COVID-19 fighting measures were tightened to the harshest for a year in April, restrictions eased considerably in May on average. These measures are on course to moderate further at least until the autumn, assuming further significant COVID waves are avoided,” Williamson said.
“This should facilitate the further return to more normal business conditions as the summer proceeds.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Cable; Editing by Toby Chopra)